DUBAI // Hundreds of displaced residents of Tamweel Tower, which was badly damaged by a blaze in 2012, may finally return this Ramadan after a key document confirming completion of cladding work was submitted to the authorities.
The document signed by eight companies was submitted last week to Dubai Civil Defence stating that the installation of the new cladding complied with fire safety requirements.
The 34-storey Jumeirah Lakes Towers building is the first fire-hit residential building to which the updated UAE Fire and Life Safety Code of Practice applies. The code states that all cladding must be replaced, not just those damaged in a fire.
“People must know their building is safe. The responsibility chapter is a very important part of the code,” said a civil defence official. “The letter is a standard format worldwide and must be signed by all. No one can come and say ‘we want the format changed’.”
The Tamweel blaze, on November 18, 2012, was caused by a discarded cigarette, police said.
The building’s aluminium cladding with a highly flammable thermo-plastic core caused the fire to spread swiftly.
It was the first in a series of high-rise blazes that put the spotlight on Dubai’s building standards, eventually leading to a reform of the safety code.
Delays caused by repairs, procedural formalities, documentation and a lack of clarity about the mandate of the owners’ association have frustrated the 160 families who are residents of Tamweel Tower.
Other delays were caused by cladding fire tests, elevation of balcony heights and the installation of additional sprinklers and smoke detectors.
The restoration work was completed last year before the updated fire safety code took effect, and the authorities were keen for Tamweel Tower to be protected under the new regulations.
“It is a number one civil defence requirement that everyone has to take responsibility for the work done, so all parties involved in the cladding work must sign the undertaking and there should be no reason for anyone to hold back,” said Sajid Raza, vice president of Butler Engineering, a civil defence-licensed fire consultancy appointed to evaluate the work.
Exterior facade work must be inspected by a specialist consultancy.”The worry companies may have is that they are being held accountable and they may not be fully aware of what has happened in the project,” said Mr Raza, who is also a member of the Fire Code Council.
After the civil defence approves the repair work, there will probably be another inspection, followed by the required clearances from Dubai Municipality and the community master developer, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, according to Tamweel Tower’s apartment owners.
“It will take some time to get all the approvals, so it may take a month for the handover,” said Amit Suri, an apartment owner. and former acting chairman of the owners’ association.
“Since there are 160 families to move in, it will take at least two months before all of us are home.”
Most flat owners have been paying the mortgages for their homes in Tamweel Tower and the rents for their flats where they moved to since the blaze in 2012.
Flat owner Mazen Iskandarani said it would be a relief for him to return after such a long time. The owner of the apartment that he rents has allowed him to extend his lease since January instead of demanding a one-year renewal of his lease agreement.
“We were fortunate because some landlords may say no,” said Mr Iskandarani.
“I’m hoping that my family can move back before Ramadan. We have been out of our homes for too long.
“In this time, a tower could have been demolished and three or four towers could have been built. It has been very frustrating but now we can just focus on preparing to go back home.”